The University of Lethbridge community extends its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Russell Leskiw (LLD ’93), the U of L’s first acting president in 1967 and the first dean of the Faculty of Education. Leskiw passed away on Monday, September 28, 2015 at the age of 86.
During his six-month presidency, Leskiw was key to setting the fledgling U of L on course for what has been an almost 50-year journey. He assumed the position of acting president on Jan. 1, 1967, the same day the University officially came into existence. Leskiw found himself at the helm of a new institution that had been highly debated and much anticipated.
When he was appointed, Leskiw was a 38-year-old southern Alberta high school inspector working out of Calgary and he had recently completed his doctorate of education at the University of Oregon.
During the U of L’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2007, Leskiw recalled those early days in the February issue of the Legend.
“Looking back, they were exciting times, and we faced many challenges,” he said. “The first issue I had to deal with as acting president was a conflictual situation in which the community as a whole was engaged. The University Section of Lethbridge Junior College strongly supported the formation of a University of Lethbridge. At the same time, there were stalwarts on the college board and administration who felt that there should be one institution continuing as it had. There were supporting factions in the community for both points of view.”
Keeping in touch with supportive elements in the community, Leskiw continued efforts. Dr. Owen Holmes was appointed as academic dean, the Board of Governors began operating and various governing bodies were established. About three months into his tenure as acting president, discussion began around forming a Faculty of Education. A proposal to establish such a Faculty was turned down by the Universities Co-ordinating Council. Leskiw was undaunted and managed to secure the signature of the minister of education at the time on the Faculty’s charter and the Faculty of Education at the U of L was born.
Following his time as acting president, Leskiw took on the role of dean of the Faculty of Education, serving until 1974.